Does Silver Jewellery Tarnish? - What you need to know!

by Ian St Leon
Does Silver Jewellery Tarnish? A Definitive Guide from Jewels of St Leon

Does sterling silver tarnish? Clients and silver jewellery owners commonly ask this question about their precious collection of sterling silver jewellery, which is usually followed by the next question "if it does tarnish, then is it inferior or poor quality silver?".


I was recently asked both these questions by a new client, who was surprised by my honest answer.

"The first thing to acknowledge is that sterling silver does tarnish over time, and it is natural for this to occur. I can understand how someone could be disappointed when you get your sterling silver necklace, ring or another piece of jewellery out only to find that it has discoloured since the last time you wore it." - Ian St Leon Jewels of St Leon.


Imagine my surprise when I googled the question myself, and my research found many conflicting responses to this question "Does Sterling Silver Tarnish?". I wondered why there was so much confusion surrounding this question when I thought finding the answer to this question would be easy. So let's look into how we can help you keep your sterling silver jewellery shining bright.


What is Sterling Silver?


To keep your sterling silver jewellery shining bright, we need to know what sterling silver is.


Sterling Silver Tie Clip with Diamond Texture Pattern from Jewels of St Leon. Green Tourmaline V-Design Sterling Silver Ring from Jewels of St Leon


Sterling silver is an alloy and the standard international form of all jewellery made from silver. It is a mixture of 92.5% fine silver, pure silver and 7.5% another metal, usually copper. The 92.5 to 7.5 percentage mix is used to harden and strengthen silver. It requires the addition of another metal, and the use of these metals allows sterling silver to tarnish. Silver, in its purest form, usually will not tarnish; however, it would be too soft for creating jewellery and would be unable to withstand the day-to-day wear and tear that jewellery experiences.


999 Pure Silver Bars - Silver in it's natural form is to soft to make jewellery that will last, by adding a small amount of other metals we create Sterling Silver which is ideal for making jewellery.

To ensure quality, jewellery, spoons and other items made from sterling silver are stamped with a hallmark of "925" or "STERLING". This represents the quantity of silver (for example, 925/1000 of pure silver) in the item or piece of jewellery. This guarantees the buyer that it has been created with genuine sterling silver when purchasing from reputable dealers in-store and online.


What Causes Tarnish?


Many factors cause sterling silver to tarnish; some pieces may tarnish within weeks, while others may take decades or never tarnish. So does this mean that a piece of jewellery with some discolouration within a week or two is inferior?


The simple answer is No. There are many reasons for sterling silver jewellery to begin to tarnish, from the moisture and dust in the air to the sweat and oil from our skin to chemical reactions from cleaning and beauty products; these can all contribute to the tarnishing process accelerating.


Tarnish is a natural process and actually protects the mixed metal(s). The fact that Sterling silver may tarnish is a part of owning jewellery. Tarnish is not rust; sterling silver does NOT rust; if your jewellery becomes rusty, it is not sterling silver.


My sterling silver has tarnished. Is it of poor quality or fake?


If you purchase from a reputable dealer online or in-store, check that your jewellery is stamped with either the "925" or "STERLING" hallmark. If it is, you have purchased genuine sterling silver, and it has been crafted to the accepted international standards.


As an example, a couple of years ago, a prominent luxury jewellery brand had customers complaining that within five to ten days, their new sterling silver jewellery was tarnishing and was fake. However, the fact is that the jewellery was authentic, and yes, it did tarnish within a short period. But many factors contributed to the jewellery tarnishing, such as chemical reactions to beauty and cleaning products, excess moisture nearby, and particles from dust and other contaminants.


If your sterling silver jewellery does tarnish, then the fact is that it is genuine sterling silver, it just needs a cleaning, and it will sparkle bright once more.


Can you prevent sterling silver jewellery from tarnishing?


A few effortless routines can help you slow the process of tarnish occurring.

Always put your jewellery on last, this women has dressed and allowed her perfume to dry before adding her jewellery to complete a stunning look.


1. Put silver jewellery on last - When we add jewellery first, then apply deodorants, body sprays, perfume and creams, we expose our jewellery to these chemicals. They can interact with the metals in your jewellery and speed up the process. Always put your jewellery on after you are dressed and ready.


2. Take your jewellery off - This might sound like a strange one. Still, we always recommend that clients remove jewellery for the following reasons.


    • Gardening is one of the easiest ways to get dirt and grime on your jewellery.
    • Showering, Washing Dishes and Cooking, apart from the possibility that a ring may disappear down a drain with soapy water, and limiting the amount of water and chemical reduces the chance for it to tarnish.
    • Exercising or working out - By removing your jewellery while exercising, you limit the jewellery's exposure to sweat and oils from your skin, pollen, dust and other airborne contaminants.


3. Reduce exposure to moisture - When your jewellery is not being worn, put it away in a jewellery box or the box/bag it came in. The jewellery is exposed to water more consistently when jewellery sits in the open next to wet areas such as bathrooms. This constant exposure to moisture may again aid in speeding up the process of tarnish appearing on your sterling silver jewellery.
4. Take a moment - Before putting your jewellery away, wipe it over with your Jewels of St Leon jewellery cloth. This will takes mere seconds to do, but it will help to remove any particles, moisture, perfume and creams that may have gotten on the jewellery. By taking a moment here, you will save on disappointment later.
5. Wear your silver jewellery - I know this may sound silly. Still, it is one of the best ways to prevent tarnishing. The friction from rubbing against your skin and clothing will remove contaminants from areas with direct contact. You can look fabulous keeping your sterling silver jewellery clear of tarnish. Like all jewellery, it is meant to be worn and will keep it sparkling bright.
6. Regularly Clean it - I recommend this with all jewellery, set a morning, afternoon or evening aside and give all your jewellery a clean using warm soapy water, a toothbrush and a cloth. This is an opportunity to look, feel and touch your jewellery and keep it looking fabulous. 
These few little hints will keep the sparkle in your sterling silver jewellery and ensure that you will not be disappointed the next time you want to wear it.
My sterling silver jewellery is already tarnished. How do I clean it?
Cleaning Jewellery will help to keep your jewellery not only beautiful but will help prevent Tarnish

I recommend regularly cleaning all your jewellery, but if you already have sterling silver jewellery that has become tarnished, it is time to clean it. Follow these simple steps, and you will soon have every piece of jewellery back to its former glory and ready to be worn.
    • Before you do anything else, take the time to inspect your jewellery for damage, loose stones and the type of stones that are set into your jewellery. Some care is required for jewellery with porous stones like pearls, turquoise and opals.

After carefully inspecting your jewellery, it is time to clean it. You will need two small bowls of warm water, one containing a small amount of dish soap, a toothbrush, a soft cloth for drying and your Jewels of St Leon polishing cloth.


The Soak - Take one or two pieces of jewellery and place them in the soapy water bowl. Wait for one to two minutes, with them soaking in the solution. This help to dislodge dirt, grease and other contaminants from the jewellery.
The Scrub - Remove one piece from the bowl, and with your toothbrush, gently scrub (Do not press too hard). Make sure to move your jewellery around, and get into all areas of your jewellery.
The Dip - After the gentle scrubbing, rinse the piece in the clean water bowl. This rinse removes the soapy residue and grime from the piece. Give it another visual inspection, looking for parts that you have missed. After the check, place it back into the soapy water bowl and allow it to soak again for another one to two minutes (work on the other soaking piece).
The Repeat - After the second soapy water soak for one to two minutes again, remove it and repeat the gentle brushing. After brushing it, dip it in the clean water again and give it a few shakes to remove any soapy residue from the piece. Ensure that you get into any spots you noticed during the second inspection.
The drying Process – Pat dry using the soft dry cloth to remove the excess water from your last dip, place it on a hand towel and allow it to air dry.
The Polish – After you have finished cleaning your jewellery and let it dry off, the final step is to ensure it is sparkling and shining. Take a Jewels of St Leon jewellery polishing cloth, give each piece a rub, and then put that piece away before polishing the next piece.


After you have completed the cleaning, it is amazing how satisfying it is to see how beautiful your jewellery looks. (Click here for a full step by step guide)
    When it comes to these commonly asked questions, does sterling silver tarnish, and if so, is it poor or inferior quality? The answers are yes, sterling silver does tarnish over time, and no, for sterling silver jewellery with the hallmark "925" or "STERLING", it is not poor or low quality. 
    Sterling silver is an alloy metal made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% another metal to harden and strengthen the softness of pure silver. Tarnish is a natural process that protects the metals from the elements. It is caused by chemical reactions to perfume, creams, sweat, dust, overexposure to moisture and household cleaning products.
    You can reduce the risk of tarnishing your sterling silver jewellery by taking several effortless steps. Removing your jewellery, putting it on just before leaving the house, regularly cleaning it and wearing it.
    Another option I have yet to mention in this article is to buy sterling silver jewellery that is rhodium-plated and newer versions of silver mixed with metals that do not tarnish. Both these options have advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that they are both tarnish resistant. The disadvantage of the new silver is the extra cost or that the rhodium-plated may need reapplication to remain tarnish resistant.
    The point is to look after your sterling silver jewellery, which will shine bright for generations when you do with the minimum amount of work required.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.